Archive for the “God’s nature” Category

God, the Creator of the Universe is Our Dwelling Place

1Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.

What a reassurance to the psalmist! “Lord, throughout all the generations, you have been our dwelling place.”

  • God has been faithful to His people for thousands of years. He has sheltered for them.
  • We have a heritage of generations who have been sheltered by the Lord. The older I get the more important my heritage is to me. That heritage connects me to something much bigger than me. When I allow the Lord to be my shelter, I continue an established heritage.
  • We are part of a community – He is “our dwelling place” – we are not alone.
  • Our dwelling place is the Lord – As we’ll see in the following verses, the Lord almighty!

2Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

4For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.

  • He is an eternal God.
  • He is the God with power to create the earth and the world.
  • Eternity is an unimaginably long time. Perhaps a thousand years is like one evening.

We are Sinful and Deserve God’s Wrath

3You turn men back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”
5You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning—
6though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.

  • He rules over the lives of men and women.
  • In light of eternity, our lives are as short-lived as a blade of grass that comes to life one morning but dies in the heat of the sun.

7We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
1 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

  • We are a sinful people and deserve nothing short of the wrath of God.
  • We could easily be consumed by our sin.
  • Our sins are not a secret from God. They are offensive in His presence.

Seek the Lord and His Favor; Find a Heart of Joy

In light of God’s faithfulness and power, and man’s sinfulness and impotence, the Psalmist does the only thing that makes sense: He Asks for wisdom.

12Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13Relent, O LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
17May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

  • Wisdom comes from the Lord. Lord, teach me how to order my days, giving priority to the most important things and forsaking the foolish.
  • It is the Lord’s unfailing love that satisfies our deepest needs, our deepest hunger. Lord, reveal Your unfailing love to me in the morning until I am satisfied in it.
  • Being satisfied in the Lord enables me to face the world with songs of joy and gladness. Lord, put that song in my heart to carry me through the troubles of this life.
  • Show me Your deeds and splendor, Lord.
  • Let Your favor rest upon me. When God’s favor rests upon us, we are blessed.
  • Establish the works of my hands. Keep my life from being meaningless.

I can’t help but see that these ending prayer requests are an outcome of verse 1 – that when the Lord is our dwelling place, we are positioned for Him to show us His deeds and splendor and to be satisfied with His unfailing love. We are positioned to have the song of joy in our heart.

Comments Comments Off on God, Our Dwelling Place – A Meditation on Psalm 90

God’s Sweet, Sweet Presence

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD Almighty!

Psalm 84:1

If ever there was a great Psalm for meditation and for calming one’s nerves, heart and soul, it would be Psalm 84. And wanting to write a blog about it, it seems often I can do nothing other than quote or rephrase the Psalm. Yet I feel compelled to write. Let’s see where this leads.

How lovely, how pleasant, how loving, is the place that the Lord dwells — the place He lives, the place He inhabits. Lovely seems like an awfully weak word, yet it also seems perfect. If I were writing the Psalm, I would probably have written how awesome, how WOW, how incredibly WOW is the Lord’s dwelling place. (Not much of a writer, am I?) But in his word “lovely,” the writer of the Psalm has caught the very essence of being in God’s presence – sweet, peace that overrides and carries through everything else. Yes, God’s presence is awesome and full of the WOW factor, but when all is said and done it is the sweet peace of the Lord that remains. How lovely is the place that the Lord inhabits.

My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.

Psalm 84:2

Having tasted that sweetness of the Lord, nothing else satisfies and we long for His presence again. Lord may I experience the sweetness of Your touch, the loveliness of Your presence so regularly that when I stray, I remember it and long to return. Lord, may my heart and flesh cry out for the Living God in the darkest of times and in the brightest of times.

Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

Psalm 84:3

Can you hear the psalmist’s heart? I hear jealousy that even the sparrow and the swallow can dwell near God’s altar, living there when the Psalmist must leave to attend to life. I also hear reverence – a place near God’s altar where she may give birth to and raise her young. What a privilege to do so near the heart of God.

Notice, also, that the Psalmist has begun to make a shift here, from God’s dwelling place to created beings dwelling near God. We’ll see that shift fully materialize in next verse. First, I want to look at the concept of the altar a bit more.

What’s the purpose of an altar? Altars were where the sacrifices were made. We think of an altar as a nice clean kneeling bench or something similar, but it was a place where blood was shed for the temporary forgiveness of sin of the Israelites. It was a bloody, gory place…yet it was lovely to David because He had experienced the forgiveness of sins. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s a lovely, sweet, place because it represents the presence of God as the One who forgives sins.

Do you know that mighty presence of God? Do you know that sweet Spirit that follows the “WOW” of God’s awesome presence? Do you know that your sins have been forgiven? Scripture teaches that God is faithful to forgive sins when we ask (1 John 1:9). If you’re unsure, ask today. He will faithfully forgive your sins and you can begin to experience the sweetness of peace with God.

Then spend some time in God’s dwelling place – His presence. Don’t wait for church on Sunday or prayer meeting on Wednesday night or your next small group meeting. Enjoy your own private audience with the Lord today.

The next blog will look at the blessings that come from dwelling with God according to verses 4 through 7.

Comments Comments Off on Psalm 84: A Meditation – Part 1, God’s Sweet Presence

Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin?
Romans 2:4 (NLT)

Perhaps there are times when you can’t think of anything to be thankful for. Life has come crashing down upon you and your “thank you” muscle is at least temporarily silenced. I was reading Dr. David Jeremiah’s book Captivated by Grace and he pointed out how thankful we ought to be for God’s kindness, patience and tolerance. Without it, we’d be toast! Even when life crashes in, in the midst of the sad, discouraging or hurtful circumstances, we can be thankful that our God is a kind, patient and tolerant God.

Jeremiah reminds his reader that God knows our every intention (see 1 Chronicles 28:9). Not only our actions, but our intention. He knows when we’ve done that good deed not to show Christ to the world, but for some personal prestige or gain. He knows when our thoughts are the polar opposite of our actions. As Jeremiah puts it:

“The Spirit of God dwells among the file cabinets of your mind…Truly understanding the implications of that, we would be taken by uncontrollable fear if His character were not kind, patient, and forbearing. Who else could we trust with the contents of those file cabinets? Who else but someone with absolutely perfect, infinitely unconditional love?”
from Captivated by Grace by Dr. David Jeremiah, p. 76

I’m thankful that God is kind. Kindness can sometimes be a rare commodity in this world.

I’m thankful that God is tolerant. The word used means “self-restraint.” God restrains Himself from punishing me as my actions and thoughts deserve.

I’m thankful that God is patient. In some translations, it reads “longsuffering.” Having looked up the word “tolerant,” I thought I’d also look up “patient” as well. I didn’t expect to find anything interesting, but you never know. I was wrong! I found it quite interesting. Strong’s Greek dictionary defines the word translated as “patient” or “longsuffering” as “longanimity.” OK, I didn’t know what that word meant, either. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary to the rescue again – longanimity means “a disposition to bear injuries patiently.” God is not only patient, He is pre-disposed to bear injuries patiently. That’s quite different from waiting patiently for the light to turn green. He bears injuries patiently. (Hmmm. Makes me consider how I’m doing in that department lately!)

Friends, there is always reason to be thankful, and I am convinced that thankfulness is a key to experiencing the joy that God’s Word promises.

Don’t allow the busyness of the Christmas season to overwhelm you. Each day, be thankful that God is kind, tolerant and patient toward you and your loved ones.

Comments Comments Off on When you can’t think of anything to be thankful for…

Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
Job 38:1

I am mesmerized by the picture God painted of Himself when He answered Job. Read some of the verses from Job chapters 38 through 40 with me. To make the passages more readable, I’m not going to include verse references and I’m going to treat the passages as prose rather than poetry. My intent is to hear what God has to say when He spends three chapters describing Himself. In all these passages, it is God speaking.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?…Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone — while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
Job 38:4-7

Almighty God, the Creator of the universe. We say those words, but do we really understand the tremendous wisdom, knowledge and power  encompassed in them? Do we think of God as architect and builder of this vast world? What knowledge beyond all the knowledge I can imagine is required to do such a thing? From nothing, He imagined the earth, then brought His imagination into reality.

“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place,…Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail?

Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?

Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?”
Job 38:8, 11-12, 22, 31-33, 35

What power this God has to say to the waves “This far and no farther!” – the power to command the stars in the sky and the weather patterns on earth. What we benignly call “mother nature” is actually at God’s command. Further notice the questions “Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?” There is more to this than God’s command over the physical world. He has established laws that govern the heavens and earth. He has dominion – supreme authority and absolute ownership – over earth. This isn’t parental authority that we can buck when we don’t like it. This is supreme authority that will rule over all and we buck it at our own peril.

“Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind?”
Job 38:36

All wisdom and understanding – even the ability to gain wisdom and understand – come from the mind and hand of God. Our intelligence is not our own – it is a gift from a gracious God. All scientific discovery has been a gift from God.

“Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth?”
Job 38:41, 39:1-2

This powerful God, continues to be intimately involved in His creation. He lowers Himself to provide food for the bird. He responds to the cry of a young bird. This Being that is beyond our comprehension is also the author of compassion. He watches over it like a young couple about to have their first child. He counts the months with anticipation, waiting for the time He knows they will give birth. (How much He must care for me if He cares for the mountain goats and deer!)

“Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will he stay by your manger at night? Can you hold him to the furrow with a harness? Will he till the valleys behind you?”
Job 39:9-10

The wild animals agree to serve our mighty God. He is safe with them. We may buck His authority over our lives, but they willingly bow to serve Him.

“The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork. She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them. She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider.”
Job 39:13-18

I love God’s description of the ostrich. It reinforces to me that (1) God has created each of us with our own strengths and weaknesses and (2) He takes great joy in our strengths and our weaknesses don’t detract from them. Some of us have ostrich feathers, and some have stork feathers. Some run like an ostrich and others like a horse. Some have the intelligence of an ostrich (or lack thereof), to others He gives more understanding and wisdom. I love the way that God rejoices in the ostriches joyful flapping of her wings.

“Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, ‘Aha!’ He catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread his wings toward the south? Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high?

Look at the behemoth [translated hippopotamus in the NLT], which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like rods of iron.”
Job 39:19-27, 40:15-18

Unlike the ungainly ostrich, the horse is a powerful and beautiful animal. Created by God for strength and speed and courage. Contrast that to the wisdom of the hawk and the eagle’s ability to soar. And make a final contrast to the hippopotamus – powerful vegetarian that he is! Do you see the vast variety in God’s creation, even from this limited sample He sights? He hasn’t even touched upon the sea anemone or killer whale (two of my favs).

In these three chapters, we see a God who is immensely – perhaps infinitely is the better word – creative, powerful, intelligent and caring. What an amazing God we serve!

Comments Comments Off on God Speaks about God – Let’s Listen In

The Israelites had the visible presence of the Lord to follow as they wandered in the wilderness. He appeared either as a pillar of cloud or fire. Those of us who trust Christ as our Savior have Him living in us and the Holy Spirit to lead us. Pillar of clouds or fire – visible and tangible; the Holy Spirit’s leading – invisible and usually intangible. How do you follow what you cannot see? How do you grasp what you cannot touch or feel? Let explore some answers to those questions.

Engage your faith.

1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for… 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:1, 2a, 6

We grasp the movement of God first by faith – by believing that He is within us and that He wants to teach and lead us. That means approaching Him with confidence that He will teach and lead – He will respond when we pursue Him. It means beginning each interaction with the Lord – whether worship, prayer, Bible study or service – reminding ourselves that He wants to speak to us and will speak to us if we attune our ears to hear Him.

It’s very easy for me to begin to read the Bible in the morning and be halfway through a chapter (or further) when I realize that I’m just reading. I’m not approaching it with an expectation that God will speak to me. There is a world of difference in what I hear from God when I simply read as opposed to when I ask Him to speak to me and I expect to hear from Him. (Even so, I am always surprised when I do hear from Him – how antithetical is that?)

Be “in faith” – believe – that God will speak to you and lead you.

Be predisposed to follow wherever He leads.
Just as you have an expectation to hear from God, have an expectation that you will do whatever He says. A “wait and see” attitude is not only displeasing to God, it is a mask that covers the face of pride, a critical attitude and seeds of doubt.

A “wait and see” attitude pridefully says that you will decide if what God has told you to do is the right thing for you to do or not – if it is best for you. It puts you in the position of being critical of the plans God has for you. It casts doubt that He will enable you to do what He has called you to do. Pride, criticism and doubt are all problems that plagued Job and his friends. I believe God would say to those of us who nurture a “wait and see” attitude, the same thing He said to Job:

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—

7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,

9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,

10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,

11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?

Job 38:4-11

Unquestionably, God is more knowledge and more power than you and I. Sometimes He needs to remind us about that.

If you want to find and follow the invisible, you must believe that He is and be determined to follow Him when He reveals Himself to you.

Friends, I have to pause here and say that as I write this, God is dealing with me so seriously about this issue. I can think of so many times when I have wondered “is this God?” and not been obedient, only to learn later that it was, indeed, God. I can think of so many situations where I have been afraid that others would think it wasn’t my “place” to do something, so I haven’t acted upon God’s leading. I can think of so many situations when I have kept silent when God was prompting me to speak.

Lord, forgive me. Change me – give me a predisposition to speak and act when I sense Your leading.

Readers, may I encourage you to pause and ask God to reveal if this is an area of weakness for you? If it is, repent (agree with God that you have failed Him) and ask Him to forgive you and change your heart and mind so that You are predisposed to follow Him.

Experience God’s presence regularly.

You will more likely be able to recognize God’s leading in your life if you regularly pursue God’s manifest presence. (See my blog “Recognizing the Invisible God” for more on the manifest presence of God.) Regularly do those things that most easily lead you into His presence. Attend church, have your own personal times of worship and Bible study, fellowship with other believers. I find that when I am regularly experiencing the manifest presence of God, I am more likely to see His presence in my life throughout the day. I am more likely to sense when He begins to move and when He settles in. Practice experiencing the presence of God so that you can recognize when He moves and when He stays. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of pursuing God apart from attending church weekly. Worship Him throughout the week, not just on Sundays.

I recommend the Christian classic The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence was a French monk who purposed to find God in the everyday activities of His life. You will be challenged to do likewise by reading it. It’s a short book that packs a powerful punch. There are many versions of it available, so the one you purchase may not look like this, but you can click on the book title above to order it.

Get to know God’s nature and character through Bible study.
While he may act differently with different people because He has created each of us uniquely, He will never act contrary to His nature and character. For example, God’s ways are always loving. Even in discipline, He does so in love, always desiring a restored relationship. His heart is revealed in so many passages, but I like this one:

34“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 35Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Luke 13:34-35

Set aside times to be still before the Lord.
Our culture is fast-moving and it is seldom silent. All that noise and movement makes it difficult to find and see the invisible. After a personal three day retreat with the Lord at a local monastery, my husband described his quiet time alone with the Lord like this:

It’s like every noise and every activity is drawn on our soul. The soul gets over-crowded with such things, so we take an eraser and erase what we don’t need anymore. But the eraser leaves a chalky film behind. When I spent time quietly with the Lord, it was as if He had totally washed the slate board of my soul clean. There were no traces of all the gunk of the previous week. With the noise of my soul quieted, I could more easily see God in the world around me and hear His voice in my ear.

Do what He has revealed to you to do.
Earlier I wrote that we ought to have a predisposition that says “yes, I will follow You.” That’s step one. Step two is actually doing it. Having the predisposition toward obedience doesn’t take us all the way – we must actually make the decision to be obedient and then we must act accordingly.

Be obedient. If you don’t do what you know to do, God is not likely to show you more of the plan! By not being obedient, you are limiting how much of Himself God will reveal to you. He’s typically not going to reveal the next thing until you’ve done the first thing. Perhaps this verse reveals why:

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
James 4:17

We are actively sinning when we are not obedient to what God has revealed as His will for our lives. Deal with the sin if you want to hear more from God. Remove the veil that separates you from Him.

Well, that’s quite a list:

  • Engage your faith.
  • Be predisposed to follow wherever He leads.
  • Experience God’s presence regularly.
  • Get to know God’s nature and character through Bible study.
  • Set aside times to be still before the Lord.
  • Do what He has revealed to you to do.

Where are you weakest? May I encourage you to work in those areas, trusting that God is faithful and will meet you and reveal what you are to do? and may I encourage you to have a “full speed ahead” attitude toward following the leading of the Lord? He will reveal it when we are faithful to believe and pursue Him daily.

Comments Comments Off on Following the Invisible God

I love this passage from Isaiah. Perhaps you do to:

6For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV)

As I prepared to preach at my mom’s nursing home this past Sunday, I was drawn to this familiar passage. What occurred to me was that in its familiarity, perhaps we have missed its application. And I don’t want to miss the application.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;

The Child, the Son, is given to us – to you and to me. Have you received Him? A gift may be given, but until it is received, the transaction isn’t complete. God has given us His Son. Have you accepted the gift from God?

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

In the December issue of Discipleship Journal Online News the editor, Connie Willems, quoted this line from The Message translation of the Bible: “He’ll take over the running of the world!” She went on to express her relief and state the obvious (which is what I so often need to hear):

“If it’s Jesus’ job to run the world, then I don’t have to. True, I’ve never been asked to run the world. But that hasn’t stopped me from occasionally slapping on a crown, waving around a scepter, and trying to force my corner of the world into perfect running order.”

Scripture says that the government will be upon His shoulders. And if He can shoulder the government of the world, He can shoulder the government of my life. Way better than I can. Which begs the question:

Is He that for you? Is He the ruler of your life? Do you give Him full reign in your life?

And His name will be called Wonderful,

Wonderful. Full of wonder. Jesus is, and always has been, and always will be filled with wonder. Truly awe-inspiring.

Is He that for you? Does He inspire your awe? Do you sense His WOW-ness?

And His name will be called Counselor,…

A counselor – a trusted friend who helps us find wisdom and peace in our situations.

A counselor (as in lawyer) – one who pursues righteousness and truth.

Is He that for you? Do you turn to Him for counsel when you need wisdom? When you need peace? When you need to know truth? When you need to find righteousness?

And His name will be called Mighty God, …

In my last blog I recounted about hearing the story of Mary read shortly before getting up to preach, one phrase caught my attention: “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) That message resonates in my spirit as I read Isaiah 9:6 this week. “His name will be called Mighty God.” He is the Mighty God of the impossible.

Is He that for you? It’s too easy to live our lives day after day not expecting the God of the impossible to be our Mighty God. I don’t want to live that way. I want to always know and live like I serve a Mighty God.

And His name will be called Everlasting Father, …

Everlasting. From eternity past to eternity future. More than I can comprehend, but I accept it as fact. Because I have accepted God’s great gift, the Son that was given to us, He is my Father – from eternity past to eternity future. My Father who protects, provides, loves, disciplines, and loves more. He is my Everlasting Father.

Is He that for you? Have you accepted the gift of His Son? Do you allow Him to be your Father, turning to Him for protection, provision, love, discipline and more love? Is He your Everlasting Father?

And His name will be called Prince of Peace.

I am so thankful that the omnipotent – all powerful – God who spoke the universe into existence and holds it together with His very breath – that God, is a Prince of Peace. He is not a warrior God. Yes, He is able and willing to fight battles when they are necessary, but His name, His nature, is the Prince of Peace. He desires to bring peace out of warring chaos – peace that goes beyond our understanding. Peace when it seems there can be no peace.

Is He that for you? Do you allow His peace to hold and keep you?

Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,…

Read the words carefully – of the INCREASE there will be no end. Christ’s government and peace will forever be increasing! That means it will always grow, there will always be more than there is now. I can’t wait for tomorrow! More of Christ’s rule, more peace. Hallelujah!

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.

To order it and establish it with judgment and justice forever. I confess – I like order! God’s world will be ordered (that is, not chaotic) and established with judgment and justice. That’s the Kingdom I want to live in. One that is ordered and established with judgment and justice. Don’t read judgment to mean condemnation. It means that He, who is the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, the Everlasting Father – He will judge and He will administer justice. Merriam-Webster defines “judge” as “to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premise.” The all-knowing God will carefully weigh all evidence and test all motives to judge righteously and administer justice. I look forward to that day.

And the pièce de résistance is the final line of the passage:

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Why and how will all of this be accomplished? By the zeal of the Lord. By His eagerness and strong passion. His great desire will ensure that this is accomplished. That’s good enough for me!

May I encourage you this Christmas season, to allow Christ to be all that He came to be in your life. It’s His heart’s passion and my prayer for you.

Comments 2 Comments »

If you’re reading along with us using the Resting at the River’s Edge Reading plans, you’re in the book of Ezekiel. I told Phil a few days ago that I was reading Ezekiel and his response was “Wheels within wheels? I’m sure some day we’ll see Zeke in heaven and say ‘Dude, you got the call and you did the best you could with it, but seeing it – this is something else!’”

In other words, if you can make sense of what Ezekiel saw, you’re doing better than everyone else who has ever tried! I can’t imagine the challenge Ezekiel had in describing what is clearly other-worldly. But one day we will see the unbelievable beings he saw and we will stand (or fall) amazed. What can we take away from a book with such mind-blowing “characters?”

I can’t begin to get my mind around the pictures described by Ezekiel, but I can still gain from reading the book. Here’s just two lessons I take from the first dozen chapters of Ezekiel.

God is…More Than
I struggled with a subtitle here and settled for this generic one – God is More Than. Let me tease it out a bit:

  • God is more creative than I can possibly imagine. My mind can’t bring the beings Ezekiel is describing into a cohesive picture, yet God created them from nothing. Imagine the degree of creativity required to create such things! I like it that the God I serve isn’t limited in His creativity. (Note to self: Quit trying to suggest to God how to solve your problems when you’re praying – leave the solutions to His creativity – don’t put limits on His answers to your prayers by asking in a way that causes you to receive less than God’s creativity wants to give you!)
  • God is more concerned with details than I sometimes remember. The amount of detail that Ezekiel includes about the beings is commendable – but beyond Ezekiel’s detailed writing is a God who included such detail in His creations. Eyes and wings and wheels and motors and hands and faces and much more. I am certain that no part of the beings occurred by happenstance –there is significance to each element. I don’t understand that significance yet, but I know the God who does. He is patient and kind and He is love. He is trustworthy. So I leave the details to Him for now. He’ll explain them to me when I need to know. For now I can be content to marvel at His ability to create such things.
  • God is not from around here – and that’s a good thing. Reading about the whirling wheels and the cherubim who interacted with them (or perhaps were a part of them) makes it clear to me that God didn’t grow up in my neighborhood. There is no amount of influence that could make someone from earth imagine what God has created. The creations are clearly other-worldly, as is the God who created them. It can become easy to think of God as a super-human. He is not. He is from a realm that He can give us insight into but while in this body, we cannot truly know.
  • God is the ultimate Commander in Chief. He commands the creatures that are beyond description. He speaks and they respond. There is no hesitation in them. (Another note to self: Learn from the creatures – obey without hesitation!) Imagine the power and authority required to command such creatures!
  • God is…more than – More than I can imagine, more than I can understand, more than I can describe. And as such, he is more deserving of my praise than I am able to give. Lord, help me to give you more praise!

God Hates Sin
You don’t have to have read very far in Ezekiel (I’m actually a few days behind in my reading according to our reading plan), to understand how grievous sin is to God. As I read chapters six, seven, eight and beyond, my heart was pierced as I understood what an affront sin is to God. I was also struck by the perspective of the seventy elders who were burning incense to idols in the temple. They say:

“The LORD does not see us; the LORD has forsaken the land.”
Ezekiel 8:12b

Wrong, my friends! The Lord sees, and He is grieved by our sin. Beyond that, however, He will judge sin. Period. Let’s not be like the seventy elders and delude ourselves into believing that God does not see and will not judge. As the Apostle Peter reminded the early Christians:

8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:8-9

The Lord sees, but is being patient, giving us and everyone else time to repent before He must come and judge. Peter goes on, reminding the Christians (and us today) that the Lord will come. He follows with an exhortation of how we are to live. I’ll let him write the ending to this blog:

10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
1 Peter 3:10-18


Comments 2 Comments »

Have you been enjoying Hebrews as you’ve Rested at the River’s Edge with us this month? I sure have. I’ve especially enjoyed chapters 10-12. Let’s look at a passage in chapter 10:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
         Hebrews 10:19-23 (NIV)

If you’ve also been reading through the Old Testament with us, this passage makes so much more sense. Some of the references are still easy to miss though, and I can’t help but comment on them. They’re just too good.

V19: We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus – In the Old Testament, we read that only the high priest was allowed to enter the most holy place, and then only once each year. They entered in fear and trepidation, lest their sin not be atoned for and they be struck down by the holy and perfect God who dwelled in that place. But now, under the new covenant, we can have confidence to enter the most holy place because we enter by the blood of Jesus. In the Old Testament, they sprinkled the blood of a sacrifice upon the altar and other items in the temple. We no longer have to do that because Jesus’ blood has already been shed.

V20: By a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body – Jesus has opened a new and living way – one that surpasses the old way of sacrifice. There was a curtain in front of the most holy place that the priests entered through. That curtain was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:51) – we now enter through His body. In other words, if we want to enter the most holy place, we must go through Jesus, the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).

V21: And since we have a great priest over the house of God – Jesus is our great priest (Hebrews 4:14)

V22: Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water – Jesus made it possible for us to draw near to God. We are to approach Him sincerely, not in rebellion or flippantly. We can approach Him in full assurance because of what Christ has done for us – He has sprinkled our hearts with His blood to cleanse us from our guilty conscience. Again, the priests sprinkled the blood of a sacrifice to cleanse the Israelites from their sins, and they washed to purify themselves. Figuratively, Christ has sprinkled our hearts with the blood to cleanse us and He has washed us with pure water.

V23: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful – The writer of the letter to the Hebrews is encouraging the Jewish believers, who would have understood all of the Old Testament references, to continue to follow Christ unswervingly. That last line – “for He who promised is faithful” – the entire passage is proof that God is faithful. He was faithful to His promise to send a Messiah, to save His people, to make a way for the entire world to be blessed by the sons of Abraham.

The writer then continues to encourage the Hebrews to be faithful, leading into chapter 11 which begins:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
          Hebrews 11:1

It’s being sure! It’s being certain even though we can’t see it!

What follows is a long line of people who demonstrated their faith through their actions. You know many of them, but what I especially love are verses 32 through 34. After going through a long list of people who make everyone’s top ten list of heroes of the faith, the writer of Hebrews almost sounds exasperated to me when he writes the following:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
          Hebrews 11:32-34

The author is saying “Hey guys, I don’t have time to tell you all these other stories, but man, the things they did through faith – conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, quenched the fury of the flames, and whose weakness was turned to strength. Wow! That’s the person I want to be! Our faith turns our weakness into strength. Hallelujah! That’s worth shouting about!

I know that Hebrews 10 and 11 were readings last Friday and Monday, but I didn’t get a chance to blog about them and they are chapters that speak so strongly to me. Tomorrow I’ll blog more about faith…Did you know that there is something beyond faith? Tune in tomorrow!

Comments Comments Off on Our Confidence and Faith

About a week ago, I wrote a blog titled We Don’t Have a Clue…

Yesterday a friend sent me an e-mail with a paragraph that just blew me away. It relates so well to my earlier blog (expressing some of what I was trying to say so much better than I had) that I asked his permission to share it with all of you. He graciously agreed.

“Job discovers, in the end, how vast the mystery of God is as God asks him questions that he cannot fathom the answers to. 

     Knowing God is like having the responsibility of drinking the Atlantic Ocean dry.  We can drink until we are full and find that we have only tasted the depths of God and that there is so much more to drink. 

     And what a difference it is between tasting the water and describing the taste to someone else.  And, if we are so successful in describing the taste that they want to drink it for themselves, helping them not be overwhelmed at the vastness of the ocean is our ongoing opportunity.”
                               Peter Scott

Our ongoing opportunity — to not only drink fully of God daily but to describe it to others and help them not be overwhelmed in the process.

 Can you hear the joy in that? What a God we serve!

Comments 1 Comment »

      For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
    And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
                        Isaiah 9:6  (NIV)

I’ve been meditating on the titles given to Jesus in the above passage for the last few days: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

We are so blessed to serve a God worthy of these paradoxical titles. I say paradoxical, because I wouldn’t expect the “Mighty God” to also be a “Wonderful Counselor.” The Mighty God upholds me with his strength and power. The Mighty God goes to battle on my behalf. The Mighty God rides in on a white horse as a “conqueror bent on conquest” (Rev 6:2). Read what Revelation 19:11-16 says about my Mighty God, Jesus:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Are you pumped? I am! Not because I desire war and bloodshed, but because my God is MIGHTY – He is POWERFUL – and He will some day bring justice to this world. Praise God that He has made a way for me to escape His wrath. It’s what Christmas is all about.

Here’s the paradox – that the mighty God described in Revelation is also a Wonderful Counselor! It boggles my mind a bit to think that someone with the mighty power of God is also compassionate enough to be the Prince of Peace. Yet Jesus gave us the following invitation and description of himself in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Now that’s the Prince of Peace – One who lifts my burdens, who enables me to rest when I am weary, and One who gives not just physical rest, but rest for my soul. He takes the bits and pieces that are at war within me and brings peace to them. I am so grateful.

The Mighty God is also gentle and humble in heart. He was born to humble beginnings – wrapped in clothes and placed in a manger, visited by shepherds. Of course He was also born to fanfare fitting for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – An angel announced His birth to the shepherds and then “a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel” to sing praises to God (Luke 2:12).

Isaiah 9 also calls Him Wonderful Counselor and Everlasting Father. The word used for counselor means to advise well or reflexively deliberate or resolve – more like a legal counselor than a psychological counselor. Jesus is our true advocate and gives wisdom that is beyond what we can know from this world. And He is our forever God, not our “here today, gone tomorrow” God. Not only is the wisdom He gives appropriate for us today, but is wisdom for all time. It is the wisdom of a father who sees, understands and knows all things. Our earthly fathers may have tried to impart wisdom in us, but it was wisdom that came from their limited life and understanding of life. That didn’t make it bad. It just didn’t make it infallible – without error. God’s advice has no errors and He will never die. He is our everlasting father.

As I contemplated these many aspects of Jesus, the question that formed in my mind was this: Do I allow God to be these things for me? He is these things, but do I let Him be those things for me?

Do I allow Jesus to be my Mighty God when I need a defender of justice, or do I push for my own justice?

Do I seek Jesus’ face when my burden is heavy and my soul needs rest or do I push on to other things or escape into television or computer games?

Do I seek and follow God’s counsel or do I rely on my own wisdom or the opinions of others?

When I need a father – whether for protection, provision, advice, relationship or comfort – do I turn to my heavenly Father or do I try to find a substitute here on earth?

Ultimately the question that God asked me was this: Am I sufficient? Do you allow Me to meet all your needs?

May I encourage you to be challenged by the same questions? Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Is he that in your life? Are you allowing Jesus to meet all your needs? He has the power, the time, the ability, and the desire. Let Him in today.

Comments 2 Comments »

© copyright 2009-2013, Data Designs Publishing and Sandra J. Hovatter